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Saturday, November 5, 2011

holoblomo day 5: ballad

note: “holoblomo” stands for Horribly Local Blogging Month, my response to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that happens every November. The NaNoWriMo challenge asks writers to compose 50,000 words in a month; I chose 10,000 as my goal. Enjoy.

So here we are.
It’s incredible how seemingly random things in life intertwine. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the Harry Belafonte HBO documentary, blown away by my underestimation of his activism over the decades, and suddenly I had a revelation: music plays heavily in the world of the oppressed, but not so much with the oppressors. There is no opposite of “We Shall Overcome.” No one does a revue of Gestapo folk songs; at least, not just for the reasons you’d think.

Less than a week after this epiphany, I was in rehearsal for a brief concert staging of TOMFOOLERY, a revue of music by the brilliant Tom Lehrer. I was familiar with many of his songs, but not all of them. And then came this lyric in “Folk Song Army,” a satirical look at the folk protest movement:
Remember the war against Franco
That’s the kind where each of us belongs
Though he may have won all the battles
We had all the good songs
So my realization was only beaten by about 50 years... by one of the greats, no less.
I guess when your agenda is about crushing people’s sprits or freedoms, you either can’t sing about it, don’t feel like singing about it, or are too tired from all the aforementioned crushing to sing about it. 
True, now that I think about it, the Tim Robbins film Bob Roberts was all about a political candidate who used Dylan-esque folk songs (“This Land is My Land”) to push a decidedly darker agenda, but those songs weren’t particularly overt. 
And really... what exactly would the dictators sing? Would it go like this?
Fight on for evil
Keep your head held high
Otherwise the rabble
Might stab you in the eye
Fight on for evil
You must do your worst
If they want to kill you
You’ve got to kill them first
Hmmm... that sounds more like a dictator’s alma mater or school fight song than it does an earnest ballad for suppression.
Is it that the oppressors don’t know how to sing? Or is it that the wealthy, powerful ones are too busy being powerful and counting their money to take the time to write songs? Because in a parallel universe, there might be counter-rallies at the Occupy movements, singing this:
We are the one percent
It is the fun percent
And all the ninety-nine
Can go eat cake and wine
Because it’s pretty clear
How all of us got here
We worked so hard, we did
(Plus we inherited)
The proletariat
They ain’t seen nothin’ yet
Because there’s always more
To borrow from the poor
The wider the divide
Means they can’t reach our side
But we can’t let them know
That we despise them so
So rally on, my friends
Because our cause depends
On the wealthy and the healthy and the stealthy leading the way...
And we’ll keep on putting the “us” in the U.S.A.!
Yipe. It’s a pretty bad song. I guess music doesn’t exactly lend itself to evil... with the exceptions of everything sung by Disney villains. 
Disclaimer: the songs in this post were written purely for sarcastic and humorous purposes. I am not pushing any personal agenda, but I also sure as hell don’t want anyone singing them in earnest. Since they’re so ridiculous, I’m not sure I have to worry about that... but you never know. So don’t you go forwarding them to any dictators or C.E.O.s. 
And that’s 2145 words.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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